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Alcohol and starvation: what is the danger of alcorexia?

15.11.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin
Alcohol and starvation

There is an increasing trend among young people to replace food with alcohol. Let’s talk about the consequences of this condition which is called ‘alcorexia’.

The term ‘alcorexia’ (or ‘drunkorexia’) appeared in 2008, in the New York Times magazine. It is not recognized as an official mental disorder, but rather a specific eating disorder. Alcorexia is a combination of alcoholism and anorexia characterized by the refusal of food with subsequent alcohol consumption. The condition is often manifested in young girls, representatives of youth subcultures and students. Separation from parents, freedom, parties, limited finances and a girl’s desire to become or stay slim can lead directly to alcorexia.

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Alcorexia implies compensatory behavior, for example, restrictions in food, taking laxatives and limiting physical activity. It is known that alcohol is a high-calorie product that removes fluid from the body. Therefore, alcoholics drink on an empty stomach in order not to gain extra calories and they consequently get drunk faster. Alcohol dulls the appetite, and then people don’t want to eat at all.


Alcorexia can have dangerous cognitive, behavioral and physical consequences, with the additional risk of developing a more serious eating disorder or addiction. Girls refuse food in combination with alcohol consumption 1.5 times more often than boys. For them this can lead to frequent alcohol poisoning with the corresponding consequences: memory blackouts, immoral sexual behavior, the risk of becoming a victim of violence and unwanted pregnancies. A woman’s metabolism functions differently: the breakdown of alcohol is slower and vital organs are affected more quickly. Long-term consequences include amenorrhea, reactive cirrhosis of the liver and the development of other chronic diseases.

The phenomenon of alcorexia is causing increasing concern among the medical and scientific community. Some experts attribute it more to eating disorders, others attribute it to the peculiarities of alcohol abuse. In 2016, Kelsey Forbush and Tyler Hunt from the Department of Psychology at the University of Kansas identified the phenomenon as a separate ICB-WGA disorder. This stands for “inadequate compensatory behavior to prevent weight gain when drinking alcohol,” but so far the scientific community are not in full agreement upon this condition.